All fall protection was not created equal. When it comes to fall protection, there’s a hierarchy. The higher up the hierarchy, the better the protection. The lower down, the less effective the protective measure becomes.
Where on the hierarchy does your organization’s fall protection strategy fall?
The Hierarchy of Controls When it comes to health and safety hierarchies, the fall protection hierarchy isn’t usually the first one to come to mind. Most are familiar with the hierarchy of hazard controls:
Elimination: Eliminating the hazard is by far the most effective safety control. An example of this is using cranes and winches to lower signage to the ground to update or change messages, instead of sending a worker up in a lift. Placing elimination controls is always the recommendation when it’s feasible. However, it may not always be possible.
Substitution: Substitution is the next best control, and it involves substituting a safer alternative when one is available. An example would be ceasing the use of a ladders in favour of Elevated Work Platforms.
Engineering controls: An engineering control manages hazards with elements built into the equipment or process. An example is a staircase built in to equipment to allow access for to servicing or cleaning, instead of ladders.
Administrative control: Administrative controls aim to change the way people work through administrative practices. An example is training, a policy, signage, SOPs, and managing work processes. Administrative controls are low on the hierarchy control because they depend on people to willingly comply.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): At the bottom of the hierarchy is PPE. It is least effective because it relies highly on compliance, needs to be always worn correctly, and requires training, maintenance, and inspection to remain effective. PPE is a last line of defence most times.
The Fall Protection Hierarchy
The fall protection hierarchy is like the hierarchy of control. Both hierarchies help people select the best possible protection.
Elimination: Like the hierarchy of control, we start with elimination. When it comes to falls, sometimes the risk can be eliminated. For example, using a pole to change a lightbulb in a high ceiling instead of climbing a ladder or even engaging the use of a scissor lift. When at all possible, eliminate the need to work at heights.
Passive Protection: Next on the hierarchy is passive protection measures, namely guardrails. Guardrails at the edge of a work area at heights or around unprotected holes provide the next best protection after eliminating the risk.
Fall Restraint: Fall restraint is an effective PPE measure in the absence of guardrails and is very effective when used with guardrails! Fall restraint is a tether attached to a harness that prevents workers from approaching an edge using an anchor point and a fixed-length lanyard. Workers who wear fall restraint devices must be trained.
Fall Arrest: Like a fall restraint system, fall arrest is a PPE system that includes a harness and an anchor point, but instead of a fixed-length lanyard, it uses a lifeline. However, it is ineffective at preventing falls. The point of fall arrest is stopping a fall in progress. If a worker experiences an arrested fall, they require rescue, which sometimes creates a severe risk to the worker and puts others in danger during the rescue as well. Fall arrest, though low on the hierarchy of fall protection, is a useful last line of defense when other fall protection methods can’t be used. Workers who wear fall arrest devices must be trained.
Administrative Controls: Administrative controls for fall hazards is the lowest form of fall protection. Examples include warning signage and policies. These are considered the least effective method of control because they leave the safety of each worker up to the individual. At BEST Safety Training, we recommend using a preferred method of fall protection in conjunction with administrative controls, unless it’s impossible. If you think it’s impossible, call us. We’ll help you determine a safer alternative.
More to Fall Protection There’s more to fall protection than the hierarchy, including:
- Fall protection program and policies
- Equipment inspection and maintenance schedules and checklists
- Working at heights planning
- Emergency response and rescue planning
If you need help developing any program elements, contact us. BEST Safety Training can help.
Working at Heights Training
All workers who work from heights require training on how to use fall protection equipment, care and inspection, rescue procedures, and any other fall protection knowledge that may apply to the work. The more information your employees have about the dangers of working at heights, the more likely they are to complete the job safely. Plus, working at heights training is the law! It’s found in several locations through the Occupational Health and Safety Act and Regulations:
- Occupational Health and Safety Awareness and Training O. Reg. 297/13
- Construction Projects, O. Reg. 213/91 Section 26.2
- Industrial Establishments, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 851 Section 79
- Oil and Gas – Offshore, R.R.O. 1990, Reg 855 Section 21
- Window Cleaning, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 859 Sections 9 and 45
Sign Up Today! Now Offering:
Not Sure Where to Start? BEST Safety Training Can Help
Download this FREE Working at Heights and Fall Protection Calendar, courtesy of BEST Safety Training and Consulting.
Like the calendar? Add your email to our mailing list to get one FREE, straight to your inbox, every month. Each month features a new topic, all designed to keep your workplace safe, healthy, and compliant.
To ask questions about our training programs or to book a consultation to help you develop a customized working at heights safety program contact us online or call 226.777.7385. Visit us 24/7 on the web at bestsafetytraining.ca.